Empty villages and terrified villagers: A Papuan Priest Testimony
On Sunday (March 8), a priest servicing in Tembagapura District, Father Hengky Magal, said that armed pro-papuan independence had occupied Opitawak, Kimbeli, Banti-1, and Banti-2 villages in the heart of Timika Mountain.
As reported by Bumi Papua on Kumparan, the priest accounted that the armed rebels terrorized local villagers with their weapons, plundered cattle and food supplies. Father Magal has led a group of evacuees to flee and seek protection in Tembagapura police station. Currently, reports show that there have been more than a thousand villagers taking shelter due to the recent conflict.
“There’s no way for us to fight them,” Magal explained as reported by Bumi Papua. “Opitawak, Kimbeli, Banti-1, Banti-2 and Takabera have been empty, no more villagers. Anyone remains there, it’s definitely not part of our community.”
The priest asked the Indonesian security forces (TNI-POLRI) to secure the villages and to repel the rebes. Most of the villagers are apparently frightened because they heard shootings from the jungle.
Meanwhile, the Chief of the Church Assembly in Kimbeli Village, Natan Magai, said that people are scared because they hear shooting every day.
“We heard shootings in Utikini village, other shootings in Opitawak so that people are getting scared. We are afraid to go outside our own homes, so we can’t make a living or find food,” said the religious leader.
According to him, people choose to be leaving the villages and seeking protection in local armed forces and police stations to find safety and security.
“We want to return to our home when the situation gets normal,” Magai added.
The tension in Tembagapura District has been heightened recently, since armed rebels attacked villages and security outposts in the area since last Friday (6/3/20). Local officials stated that the police and military are looking to arrest those who responsible for the attacks on the civilians and security personnel.